120308-Fracking- A team from Nieuwco Drilling is doing some Test Fracking in the Moutonshoek area near Piketberg. They are trying to find out if it will be viable to drill for minerals in the area. Pictures Greg Maxwell

Leila Samodien

Justice Writer

THE Bergrivier Municipality has secured an interim court interdict to stop prospecting for tungsten and other minerals on a farm in Piketberg.

Drilling under a prospecting licence had begun earlier this month on farmland in the fertile Moutonshoek valley.

But the municipality brought an application to the Western Cape High Court in a bid to stop work on Kromvlei farm.

Bongani Minerals has been given a controversial permit to prospect for tungsten on four properties, which will become the site of an open-cast mine should it prove viable.

Except for some cash-strapped farmers, the plan has been met with opposition from a group of locals, including farmers, workers and environmental groups.

Yesterday, Acting Judge Stephen Koen granted a temporary interdict restraining the owners of Kromvlei and Bongani from continuing work on the farm.

This order didn’t include the drill hole the minerals company was already drilling. Koen ordered that work on this drill hole be completed no later than Thursday.

Bongani Minerals has a prospecting licence, which was granted by the Minister of Mineral Resources – the fourth respondent in the court action – on July 1, 2011. It is valid for three years.

But the municipality is resisting the minister’s approval of the licence, saying it goes against their zoning regulations.

According to an affidavit by Bergrivier municipal manager Christa Liebenberg, the farm was zoned for the cultivation of crops, animal breeding or the operation of a game farm.

Their Land Use Planning Ordinance (Lupo) didn’t make specific provisions for prospecting activities in such a zone, Liebenberg said.

Also, the minister had granted Bongani prospecting rights under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, which was “subject to any other relevant law”.

The legislation didn’t authorise the minister to “override the provisions of Lupo when she issues a mining grant”.

Liebenberg said the municipality had been informed by neighbouring farmers in the first week of March that prospecting had started on Kromvlei.

On March 9, the municipality issued a letter to the owners, Johannes and Gesina Coetzee, demanding that prospecting on the land be stopped. A similar letter was sent to Bongani three days later.

However, when town planner Johannes Vermuelen visited the site on March 12, it was “apparent that extensive prospecting activities were being conducted on Kromvlei”.

Liebenberg said the Coetzees, as well as Bongani, had “all ignored the municipality request to refrain” from prospecting, while the company had also indicated it would continue with its work.

“Even if only a few pieces of land in a particular area are used contrary to the zoning for that area, the character of the area and the welfare of the members of the community in that area would be jeopardised and the planning objectives of the local authority frustrated,” Liebenberg said in her affidavit.

The respondents have indicated to the municipality’s legal team that they intend opposing the court action.

According to Koen’s order, they have until April 13 to file answering papers.

The matter is scheduled to be heard on May 23.

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